Saturday, April 27, 2013

Once upon a time, I had this cute little blog called Then Came Isaiah.  I started it in 2007 right after I had my first son.  For over five years, it provided a place to gush about my children, marriage and transition from die hard city girl to suburbanite.  What started as a blog for just family quickly turned into much more with international readership and a considerable amount of hits per month.  Then Came Isaiah also saw me through a personal tragedy when in October 2009, my older brother, Tommy passed away unexpectedly at 38.

Tommy was a funny, sarcastic, handsome artist, NYPD detective, and hero.  I used to find illustrations and poems of his scrawled on stray papers all throughout our house in Queens.  Tommy could write a love poem so smooth,  it slipped on your skin like lotion.  Like a typical brother, he was also my bully and fiercest protector all rolled into one.  Not a day goes by when I don't miss him.

Our Tommy, April 28, 1971-October 22, 2009

A few weeks before he died, I wrote a series of posts on Then Came Isaiah where I talked about rekindling my passion for writing.  It was something I felt called to do.  Exactly one week before my brother passed away, I read at my first open mic since I was in college.  After, I wrote on Then Came Isaiah (October 19, 2009):

I just keep thinking of that Souza quote - Happiness is the way, Happiness is the way... it just reminds me that I really do want to be happy and fulfilled for as many days as I can because life is often shorter than you want it to be - and it can so easily be filled with regret... I think what my journey is about - why I am blogging... why I am writing again... and why I suddenly became more concerned with what my career gave me rather than how much I gave it - is my desire be better. To live better.

Two days later, Tommy passed away.

Tommy started his career with the NYPD young.  Because of this, he was two years away from retirement when he left us.  He wanted to travel.  As a life long car lover, he dreamed of opening his own car wash and detailing center someplace warm like Miami.  He also dreamed of having his first child.  Though he accomplished more than many people do in their lives, those things were left waiting on his list. 

When the clouds began to recede after the storm of my mourning, I was reminded of what I had started just prior to his passing.  My fear of failing or not-being-good enough suddenly paled in comparison to my fear of not-doing or never getting to try.  I miss my brother and would gladly take him back for any lessons I may have learned but losing him taught me just how unexpected life can be and how if this is really our one shot... we need to do everything we can to be happy and make it count. 

In some ways Tommy and I are closer than we have ever been because I imagine him by my side when I take those scary first steps or when a door closes before I get the chance.   I'm doing it for myself but I'm also doing it for him. 

For those of you living your life how you always wanted to, brava! This lesson is learned much easier without the shadow of loss.  If you're still paralyzed  at that first step, remember...

All you have to do is take that first step, the rest will surely follow.

Happy Birthday In Heaven, Big Brother!

Love and Light,

Friday, April 19, 2013

I wish I could say I fell in love with the written word by reading the classics.  You know, tell you some great story about reading Rebecca for the first time and waltzing around holding the front and back cover like hands when I was done. Or being swept away in the prose of Faulkner or Morrison or Shakespeare... clutching the books in my hands as I slept and kissing them "Good Morning" when the sun woke us up.
I totally could. 
My heart still beats a little faster when I read the first line of Sula, I quote Hamlet all the time (which is admittedly disturbing) and Light in August is one of my favorite books of all time.

But, I can pinpoint my love affair to around 1993.  I was twelve years old, in Queens, lying on my stomach in my twin sized bed with pink sheets and a broken ivory canopy.  My kinks were fighting through my day-old straightened hair and my eyes were glued to the pages of a tattered library book.
I was reading. 
Reading well into the silence of the night, well past bedtime and well into my mother's calls for breakfast time.  The book was My Sweet Audrina, a bizarre tale about a girl desperately trying to live up to the legacy of her dead sister with a twist that gives me chills to this day.

You see... the story moved so quickly I had to stop reading to catch my breath.  The words floated off the page and touched me like they had fingertips.  It was the first (but certainly not the last) time I read a book that gave me goosebumps.  It was chock full of "people you could read like window panes" and "haunting eyes" and "porcelain skin."  Emotion and intensity...
And sex.
To a awkward twelve year old girl like me, the idea of sex filled with passionate kisses and soulful touches was EVERYTHING. I remember the first time I read "throbbing manhood" I wanted to stop everything and go out and get one! Thank God no one actually gave me one.  Now, if someone claimed they had one, I would probably call the police. 

The point is, I was so, so, so, so in love.

After reading the book (I would go on to read it multiple times), I filled notebooks with words.  Stories about lost Barbie dolls, girls trapped in mirrors, exploding birthday cakes, unrequited love with the boy next door... everything my little brain could conjure up.  I would read them to my mother, father, brother, best friends and lord help the English teacher that assigned us creative writing!  I would perch up in front of a willing class and read my shit like it could cure cancer.
I reveled in every single opportunity to write... well into adulthood.

When I got to law school it was beaten out of me somewhat.  I remember spending more time on the fact section of my first brief than actually researching the law ("Mavis Carr was a lonely widow.  She stood at her picture window raking her hands through her salt and pepper hair and holding her breath as the delivery man made his way to her door.  She felt foolish for being so excited but it had been months since she had a visitor.  Perhaps that is why she never asked for ID or noticed the 9mm peaking through the rear pocket of his pants..."). 
I got a C on my first legal writing assignment.  But, I tore that fact section up, yall!

When I graduated and landed a job that gave me the flexibility to write, my passion was reignited.  Falling in love, experiencing heartbreak, having bad sex, having good sex, getting married, giving birth, losing loved ones all gave me a perspective on the world and life that bubbled up - creating glorious, juicy fodder that just poured out of me.  My hands could barely keep up with my brain.  Which is the best feeling ever. 

As I move to this new phase of my life where I pursue writing as a career, I constantly recall the feeling My Sweet Audrina gave me.  The feeling Ms. Andrews gave me.  The late Andrews is quoted as saying, "I think I tell a whopping good story. And I don't drift away from it a great deal into descriptive material... When I read, if a book doesn't hold my interest about what's going to happen next, I put it down and don't finish it. So I'm not going to let anybody put one of my books down and not finish it. My stuff is a very fast read."

V.C Andrews

I can only hope to do the same.

Love and Light,

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The best part about writing a book is writing the book. 
It is deeply satisfying to create a world... to create circumstances... and people.  People so dynamic they are practically sharing your ice cream and licking your spoon.
Then you watch them. 
You watch them take their first breaths.  You watch them cry, laugh, dream and it is... well, it's marvelous.

The hardest part about writing a book is finishing. 

Because then - no matter how hard you try to fight it, you have an insatiable desire to share it.  You want everyone to know about your amazing new friends and the spectacular lives they have led. You pour your heart and soul into your pitch or query.  You put on your best, most sparkly dancing shoes and do your fanciest like-me-jig and then you wait.

and wait...
and check your voicemail...
and wait...
and check your email...
and wait...
and wait...

For those of you waiting (and working hard) for your dreams to come true... I'd like to share with you the wise words of the most popular guy in my house right now (2nd only to Mickey Mouse and those dudes from Imagination Movers).

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all

-Dr. Seuss "Oh, The Places You'll Go"

Sigh.  Don't you just love him.  I have a feeling Dr. Seuss gave the best hugs.  Of course, I kind of picture him as a cat with a hat on but that's just me.  We will be the winning-est winners, folks! I know it.

Love and Light,

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Close your eyes...
Wait, open them so you can read.

You are a writer. 
Cloaked in social awkwardness and dreams of self isolation.  Imaginary characters and/or vivid memories make homes in your head... tea time on your shoulders, and take naps between your toes.  Your characters' thoughts float in and around your mind, sometimes clearer than your own, tip-toeing their way through your veins, erupting in goosebumps and animating your fingertips - teasing you to give them life or reincarnate them on a page.
You are writer.
You are weird.

Imagine hundreds of these strange folks in one place for a weekend.
To you maybe. To me it was a place I knew I belonged.

That's right, folks.  This weekend was the annual Writer's Digest Conference East and I gave UP my conference virginity like I had daddy-issues and it was the captain of the football team!  It took place at the Sheraton New York Hotel in NYC and was chock full of helpful panels, boot camps and programs run by agents, editors and industry insiders to help provide a flashlight in the often dark and scary world of publishing.  It also featured keynote speakers James Scott Bell, Adriana Trigiani and Tayari Jones.  But... perhaps most importantly (or at least what was likely most highly anticipated) was the infamous Saturday Pitch Slam!

For those of you unfamiliar with a Pitch Slam it is a timed event where writers seeking publication of their book or novel has an opportunity to "pitch" to an agent or editor to help sell their book.  In this case, we had an hour and a half to pitch to as many agents as possible. 3 minutes with each agent. 90 seconds to pitch, 90 seconds for feedback.


Needless to say for the odd breed of human being I described above, this is not always the best representation of the book (WRITE-ers not TALK-ers).  However, it provides a unique opportunity to stand out from the slush pile and advocate for your book.  The lawyer still lurking inside of me was like a hungry pit bull on a leash.   What's for muther-effin lunch? (My inner lawyer is a bad-ass)

The writer I actually am was scared shitless.

The slam was divided in two sessions - I signed up for the first.  An hour before it started I went to check out the room and people were already lining up! I jumped on board and landed the fourth spot on line meeting a few awesome women I practiced my pitch on.  They told me to slow down!  I listened.  When 11am hit, I may have vomited a little, but I choked it back, scurried in and headed over to my first agent...
Deep breath.
Results: 8 Agents.  1 Editor = 6 requests for material (including the editor), 2 invitations to query (wha? but I just...) and 1 NO (from Kristin, ya'll! Remember how much I love her - still do!).  I walked away with 8 golden tickets (a.k.a, agent/editor cards).

Not bad for my first time!

The rest of the conference was fantastic.  Adriana Trigiani was funny and fabulous and Tayari Jones made me cry... she reminded us all to never give up on our art because the doors will open - you just have to be persistent, prepared and passionate.  "You already have everything you need..." she reminded us again and again. 

In addition to my take-aways from the pitch slam, I got two more invitations to query at the cocktail party, met an awesome group of novelists and screenwriters who want to start a writing group, and made another writer friend who is just as tall as I am (we unofficially became conference bffs).  I also got to spend the weekend with my beloved city which... well you know... New York is and will always be my first love.

Overall, it was AMAZING, I am hooked and I am more convinced than ever that writing is exactly what I was meant to do.

Oh, and my big news? I went to my first conference! Haven't you been reading?!?!

I love a good cliffhanger. 

Love and Light,

Friday, April 5, 2013

I have big news.

But, in the interim, I want to share this amazing video with literary agent/intellectual property attorney Dana Newman on the legal issues in publishing.

Love and Light,
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